Thursday
Dec272012

A Mortifying Sense of Porousness

[ED: A few friends and I decided to exchange a series of playlists in honor of the new year. The following post is my contribution. Click on each iTunes playlist image to download; there are three in total.]

Tuesday
Dec252012

Merry Christmas, From The Chester Family To Yours

RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: FATHER CHRISTMAS

ALL STILLS TAKEN FROM NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION, 1989; PRODUCTION DESIGN BY STEPHEN MARSH, ART DIRECTION BY BEALA NEEL, SET DECORATION BY LISA FISCHER

Friday
Dec072012

One Can't Be Stingy With These Things

[ED: Antonia San Juan, in Almodovar's All About My Mother, on dreams, authenticity, and cash. And potentially on decorating.]

 

Sunday
Dec022012

In the Land of Gods and Monsters: Lynch and Ruscha's Los Angeles

“What a fine thing it would be, Harvey thought, to build a place like this. To drive its foundations deep into the earth; to lay its floors and hoist its walls; to say: Where there was nothing, I raised a house. That would be a very fine thing.” - Clive Barker, "The Thief of Always"

LANA DEL REY: GODS AND MONSTERS

LANA DEL REY: COLA

 

I.

"Although one or two pictures suggest some recognition of the criteria of art-photography, or even architectural photography, the majority seem to take pleasure in rigorous display of generic lapses: improper relation of lenses to subject distances, insensitivity to time of day and quality of light, excessively functional cropping, with abrupt excisions of peripheral objects, lack of attention to the specific character of the moment bing depicted—all in all a hilarious performance, an almost sinister mimicry of the way “people” make images of the dwellings with which they are involved. Ruscha’s impersonation of such an Everyperson obviously draws attention to the alienated relationships people have with their built environment." [2]

"In 1965 Edward Ruscha published Some Los Angeles Apartments, the third in his ongoing series of photographic books, and completed a group of ten related drawings that depict variations on the ubiquitous Southern California apartment building.

Ruscha’s apartment book chronicles the artist’s fascination with Los Angeles and its unique characteristics. Having moved there from Oklahoma in 1956, Ruscha was immediately excited by his new environment and stimulated by its fast and mobile landscape. The car, in fact, is central to the development of Ruscha’s work. His love of driving around Los Angeles, exploring the city and absorbing its character, coupled with frequent trips along Route 66 to visit Oklahoma, gave him a visual perspective defined by the windshield, driver’s window, and curbside. He found gasoline stations, apartments, vacant lots, and palm trees during drives around Los Angeles and photographed them from where he stood beside his parked car." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1029 S. Union," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Although it was not Ruscha’s intent, Some Los Angeles Apartments also documents an aberrant chapter in a fifty-year history of distinguished architectural achievement in Southern California. A combination of factors contributed to the growth of a distinct and adventurous architecture during the first half of the twentieth century. The open, horizontal space and temperate climate promoted outdoor living and the proliferation of single-family houses and apartments with patios and gardens. Los Angeles also developed—by plan and circumstance—as a decentralized city with many commercial centers joined by an efficient and complex system of freeways that established the private car as the primary means of transportation. The mobility afforded by the automobile contributed greatly to the overall dispersal of low-density residential buildings, usually only one or two stories high. In addition, by the 1930s, a strong economy coupled with an atmosphere of optimism and experimentation encouraged a talented group of young architects to design an imaginative California Modern style of house and apartment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "6565 Fountain Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"The earliest suggestion of a modern architecture appears in the work of Irving Gill. His Horatio West Court (1919) displays a modernized version of the then dominant Mission Revival style. During the teens and twenties, this common form of residential architecture—derived from the Spanish missions built in California in the eighteenth century—was typically wood framed, sheathed with white stucco, and oriented around a garden space. The solid massing and plain surfaces of Mission Revival architecture related to current abstract architecture being done by Adolf Loos and Walter Gropius in Austria and Germany. Gill further pared away detail, emphasizing broad white surfaces with deep recesses, arches, and horizontal bands of windows meeting at the corner, offering abundant light, ventilation, and ocean views. Gill’s synthesis of the Mission style, with its stress on simplicity, geometry, light, and shade, was well suited to the California Climate.

The rapid growth of the Los Angeles population and residential and public development through the 1930s led to the proliferation of bungalows, ranch houses, and tract housing, all clad in various period styles—Regency, Colonial, Tudor, Spanish, and Streamline Moderne. However, the most distinguished contribution was made by a few architects, most notably R.M. Schindler and Richard Neutra, who arrived in LA in the 1920s. Both were born and trained in Vienna, had worked with Frank Lloyd Wright, and were deeply committed to the International Style. Their aesthetic, which demanded that materials, details, and form symbolically and functionally relate to a rational machine precisionism, was easily adaptable to the requirements of the Southern California environment. Neutra’s Landfair Apartments and Strathmore Apartments (both 1938) are pure International Style. Simple, direct, and rational, they are one- and two-story  buildings with a small number of apartments, suggesting single-family residences. Their clean planes of white stucco, generous bands of horizontal windows, and flat roofs with gardens were compatible with a simplified, modern, outdoor-oriented life-style. Schindler’s structures reveal more complex compositions, emphasizing spatial and volumetric forms that are both functional and aesthetic. On the façade of Schindler’s Mackey Duplex Apartments (1939), the internal vertical and horizontal spaces project to external volumes that are integral to the composition rather than merely decorative. Schindler’s De Stijl forms exerted a strong influence on the development of Los Angeles architecture, offering innovation and adaptability in apartment design." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2014 S. Beverly Glen Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

Edward Ruscha, "15120 Victory Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"Other variations on International Style apartments using a court or garden plan were provided by Gregory Ain and J.R. Davidson, two architects influenced by Neutra and Schindler. Ain’s Dunsmuir Flats Apartments (1937) is a severely geometricized International Style building staggered back on a deep lot. A long, narrow outside entrance on one side allows garden areas on the opposite side of the building. Each apartment is two stories, with the ground floor opening onto a private patio, and all rooms are illuminated on three sides by narrow strip windows. The front elevation is dominated by a row of enclosed garages, completing a plan that is consistent in layout, structure, and materials with convenience, privacy, outdoors, an the automobile. Davidson’s Gretna Green Apartments (1940) displays the same concern with patio gardens, well-lit living spaces, and convenient car accommodations in a simple, well-organized, and substantial white stucco structure. Like Neutra and Schindler, Davidson’s training in a European Modern aesthetic is comfortably adapted to the new California Modern style. A variation on apartment structures is seen in William Foster’s Shangri-La Apartments and Hotel (1941)—a massive Streamline Moderne structure displaying curved corners, decorative glass bricks, and fanciful lettering on the entrance canopy. The desirable corner location, affording sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, encouraged a high-rise building, with balconies on the upper floors, that offered both private apartments and hotel rooms.

The increasing population density and continuing growth of commercial centers in West Los Angeles and along the Wilshire Boulevard corridor in the 1950s generated more high-rise apartments, but these were on the model of New York residential buildings. Victor Gruen’s Wilshire Terrace Apartments (1959) is a massive rectangular box with pattern and texture dominating all four sides. The interior circulation, double-loaded corridors, necessity for elevators, and lack of access to outdoor areas marks a distinct departure from the California Modern Architecture of the previous two decades, which emphasized the advantages of the Los Angeles environment." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "1018 S. Atlantic Blvd.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

"By the time Ruscha photographed contemporary apartments in 1965, the distinctions between architectural styles and life-styles and been blurred and even disregarded. The spread of freeways crisscrossing the Los Angeles basin and the subsequent development of properties at interchanges and off-ramps, along with a population density too high to allow spacious single-family residences and garden apartments, spawned the appearance of the Los Angeles ‘dingbat’ apartment. Dingbat—a word of unknown origin traditionally used to describe a typographical symbol or ornament that calls attention to an opening sentence or break between paragraphs—is an appropriate word to describe architecture that displays superficial ornamentation and signage to call attention to itself in order to distinguish it from a similarly plain apartment building next door. Dingbats, which predominate in Some Los Angeles Apartments, are typically two-story walk-up structures with a side-loaded exterior corridor and exterior circulation. Usually a boxy rectangle of wood construction with stuccoed exterior walls, these 1960s apartments display an eccentric, embellished, cheap, and often ridiculous version of the pure Modern style exemplified by Neutra and Schindler. Designed to be cost-effective, they were built to fill the entire lot from the sidewalk property line to the back, with parking efficiently tucked under the living areas in carports. They retain none of the privacy, cross lighting and ventilation, flowering gardens, or architectural originality that they hope to announce by their decorated facades. However, they were of great interest, not necessarily to the people who lived in them, but to Ruscha, precisely because they expressed the freedom, diversity, newness, and irony of the visual experience of Los Angeles." [1]

Edward Ruscha, "2206 Echo Park Ave.," from Some Los Angeles Apartments, 1965

 

II.

“The older the house, the more have likely died inside. This house is old.” - Brooks Sterritt, "A Face is Made of Fourteen Bones"

“Man, the ‘interior designer,’ is . . . an active engineer of atmosphere . . . Everything has to intercommunicate, everything has to be functional—no more secrets, no more mysteries, everything is organized, therefore everything is clear . . . modern man, the cybernetician, [is] a mental hypochondriac, as someone obsessed with the perfect circulation of messages.” - Jean Baudrillard, "The System of Objects"

BARRY ADAMSON: HOLLYWOOD SUNSET

ANGELO BADALAMENTI: HAUNTING & HEARTBREAKING

"In 1997, while promoting his new project, Lost Highway, Lynch granted his first interview to a design journal, the Swiss publication form. Question: ‘Do you ever dream of furniture?’ Answer: ‘I day-dream of furniture, yes.’ The stuff of fantasy, furniture is also a long-standing hobby for Lynch and became a minor business venture for him in the 1990s, after the critical and commercial failure of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and during a period when Lynch struggled to get another film off the ground. In the interview, Lynch explains that he had been making furniture ever since art school and sold his first piece at Skank World, a small Beverly Hills shop specializing in mid-century design. In April 1997 several of Lynch’s pieces, including the Club Tables featured in the photograph of the interior of the Beverly Johnson House, were displayed at Milan’s Salone del Mobile, one of the world’s more prestigious furniture exhibitions. Lynch sold the line—including the Steel Block Table, the Floating Beam Tale, and the Espresso Table—exclusively through the Swiss design company Casanostra, with the small constructions of wood an steel priced between fifteen hundred and two thousand dollars. On Casanostra’s website the last piece is sold with the tag, 'Coffee in an asymmetrical world.'" [3]

"Similarly, the October Films press kit for the picture promoted it as the work of a visionary auteur who conceives of film as an inherently intermedial endeavor, combining music and art direction, painting and photography in a symphony of design:

The design within the house also corresponds to Lynch’s overall vision. ‘I always like to have the people stand out, so the furnishings have got to be as minimal as possible so you can see the people.’ Lynch adds, ‘There were many things that had to be built for the story to work,’ and since Lynch has lately expanded his activities to include the design of furniture, he actually built some pieces for this set himself, most notably the case that contains the Madison’s ominous VCR.

Lost Highway’s furniture, it seems, is transparent, opening onto views of Lynch’s eccentric genius. The romantic idea of the auteur, developed most famously in the 1950s in the pages of the French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma, was bound to a related notion of the expressive mise-en-scène, of a controlled cinematic décor bearing the traces of a presiding aesthetic personality. Style, for the discerning “Hitchcocko-Hawksiens” at Cahiers, would have a soul, humanizing the industrial products of Hollywood’s dream factory. And it is hard not to think of Lynch’s furniture as a kind of artistic cameo, the equivalent in the realm of objects of the cheeky appearances of his beloved Hitchcock, always popping up in his own films and turning them into ever more reflexive and ironic gizmos in the process. What’s more, the furniture—and the domestic drama of Fred (Bill Pullman) and Renee (Patricia Arquette) that occupies roughly the first half of the film’s disjointed narrative—is staged in an über-modern home that is Lynch’s real property, one of three houses (including Lloyd Wright Jr.’s Beverly Johnson House) owned by the director in the same canyon outside of Hollywood. The feature article on Lost Highway in Rolling Stone, explains how Lynch remodeled the house inside and out for the film, adding the tiny, narrow slot windows to the exterior and building a ‘tunnellike hallway’ on the inside, into which Fred Madison will repeatedly be made to disappear." [3]

"The press kit also insists on the centrality of the home’s design to unlocking the film’s secrets or producing more of them:

The house inhabited by Fred and Renee is similarly integral to the film’s scheme, combining stylistic elements of yesterday, today and tomorrow, just as the narrative does. In fact, the house’s peculiar design could almost serve as a metaphor for the entire film: when seen from the front, there are a few small windows, providing limited opportunities to see inside. But when it is approached from other angles, one realizes that there are many ways to observe the interior.

The Madison’s home, we are assured, is like the broader style of the film’s décor, both ‘blazingly modern and absolutely retro in look and feel.’ Dropping references to expressionism, the surrealism of André Breton, psychoanalysis, and film noir, Lost Highway’s marketing announces David Lynch’s return to form through his modernity, and his modernity through an unlikely equation between the modern, minimalist house and modernist narrative complexity. Less is more." [3]

"Aesthetic modernism is part of the film’s status as stylistic pastiche, but also part of its real narrative aspirations and claims to aesthetic legitimacy and power. Lost Highway poaches the design lessons of high modernist architecture—utopian rationalism and functionalism, chiefly—and ironizes them in the service of modernist narrative in the mode of art cinema, blurring art and pornography, visionary idealism and mass-market materialism. In Lost Highway, transparency and rationalism fail in precisely the location where so many postwar architects imagined the future of the modernist impulse—the happy, newly pleasurable open-plan design of the mid-century domestic interior, whose dream of more permeable boundries between inside and outside becomes another nightmare. The film’s relentlessly pornographic imagination is part of its own meditation on auteur self-fashioning as furniture. This befits an artist who, on the heels of two commercial flops, has become well acquainted with the vagaries of mass taste and finds himself embroiled in another campaign to sell himself. In the process, the auteur’s romantic soul is hollowed out, hardening into a merely functional thing. The Lynchian signature becomes a design icon, a fetishized commodity, an ironic advertisement for its own hidden mysteries whose views are forever deferred: furniture porn." [3]

"In Lost Highway these ironic objects—furniture, bodies, and the souls of authors—are set loose in a strikingly dehumanized and unsentimental film. Instead, Lynch positions his furniture in a dark, highly reflexive meditation on the enigma of personality itself—on the very idea of human interiority or other, obscene secrets on the insides of things. The Madison’s modern home allows Lynch to pose the question of the interior in several ways: through the troubled status of bourgeois domesticity and privacy, here again contaminated y theatricality; through the etiology of Fred’s psychological distress, which Lynch again gives harrowing architectural form and here drives the narrative fragmentation; and through the enigma of Renee/Alice, whose mysterious sexuality is asked to speak its truth, in the fashion of pornography." [3]

"The Madison’s living room, with its wooden auteurist prosthesis, draws on the romantic soul of wood—its integrity, warmth, and temporal stability—to protect against the violation of domestic intimacy by technology and psychic malaise. The VCR case’s compensory quality is immediately noticeable because of its functionality and superfluity. There is already a capacious horizontal niche for the VCR carved into the half wall of light wood, which makes the additional wooden sleeve around the VCR an unnecessary design flourish. The case’s evident lack of functionality is all the more flagrant within a semitransparent partition designed, in mid-century fashion, for multifunctionality: it is at once media console, storage space, and room divider, separating the living room from the stairway behind it. But the console offers scant consolation, because its design elements are echoes or repetitions of the house’s exterior: the row of snake plants that frame the console are also arranged in a line outside the Madison’s front door, stretching across the front of the house. The plants call our attention to other graphic repetitions: the nested horizontals of the wooden media console and VCR case are echoed in the horizontal vents in the house’s façade as well as the vertical encasement of the home’s narrow windows—fortress-like slits—and the front door’s own rectangular shell. In these ways the inside is always an outside; this modern house wears its heart—the living room—on its sleeve." [3]

TEXT [1] TAKEN FROM THE EXHIBITION TEXT OF "EDWARD RUSCHA: LOS ANGELES APARTMENTS 1965" BY RICHARD MARSHALL, WHITNEY MUSEUM OF ART, 1990; ALL RUSCHA PHOTOGRAPHS TAKEN FROM THE SAME; TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM "ART OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY," EDITED BY JASON GAIGER AND PAUL WOOD, 2003; TEXT [3] TAKEN FROM "DAVID LYNCH" BY JUSTUS NIELAND, 2012; ALL OTHER QUOTES CITED IN TEXT; ALL OTHER IMAGES TAKEN FROM "LOST HIGHWAY," DIR. DAVID LYNCH, PRODUCTION DESIGN BY PATRICIA NORRIS, 1997

Sunday
Nov252012

Samara Golden: The Rape of the Mirror

BRIAN WILSON: 'TIL I DIE [DESPER MIX]

SAMARA GOLDEN: 'TIL I DIE [NIGHT GALLERY FINAL MIX]

"Feeling shipwrecked on a continental island, Night Gallery fakes her own death to escape into Samara Golden's shining sea of blue light and infinite horizon.

In her upcoming solo exhibition 'Rape of The Mirror,' Golden is the storm maker. Her hypothetical cyclone suspends in rotation the rooms of a demolished fantasy; reflecting back hurled pieces of styrofoam that once were the bricks of a dream home. As with Golden's previous work, 'Rape of The Mirror' is an active vortex to an emotionally complex multiverse. SHE is the eye of the tornado.

Inspired by movies such as The Long Goodbye and American Gigolo, Golden constructs an architecture of luxury made entirely of silver insulation material known as Thermax. Reflective furniture, a silver-plated jacuzzi and a queen-sized bed fitted with light blue sheets occupy the gallery space. A video of breaking waves crashes over the installation, illuminating the darkness while stretching the space to the other side of the earth. The gathering gloom watch as lights fade from every room with Golden's perpetual state of sunset plaguing the scene with a foreboding pink hue. Night Gallery is reborn as an ocean side villa dangling from a cliff in the sixth dimension.

'Rape of The Mirror' is a continuation of Golden's investigation of cyclical video-voyeurism as she presents the viewer with multiple perspectives using three cameras and two projectors. These technical mediations, combined with her homespun sculptures-of-deceit, create the Mirage of love. Blue is red and yellow is clear. Adhered to the gallery's back wall, atop a lattice of shelves, is a crying eye that looks upon this domestic setting and sees a house of broken glass transformed into a funhouse made of poor-(wo)man's mirrors.

Night Gallery anticipates her rebirth as a Thermax poem spanning different media and time sculpted by our Mother thunderstorm Samara Golden." [1]

 

"Rape of the Mirror": Bedroom installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror essentially remakes Night Gallery into two cracked fantasy rooms: a lounge with Jacuzzi and ocean view, and an interior master bedroom. Powder blue carpeting has been installed throughout the gallery, and the walls have been painted a similar color. Tall, empty, Ikea-style bookshelves loom everywhere. A few strange tchotchkes populate the bedroom; a single eye peers into the "window" of the lounge, which is also outfitted with an elaborate stereo system.

It's all very plush on the surface, but look closer and the whole shebang falls apart; almost all of the objects are created out of R-Max, a thin and flimsy foam board that's used to insulate homes. Give one of the shelves the lightest push and it'll fall over; try to sit on the bed and it will promptly cave in. The artifice here is touching -- it's as though a child has worked really hard to make the adult dollhouse of her dreams. Folded into this sense of longing is a sinister streak as well; violent scratches mar the surface of the bed, and the sheets dissolve into a shattered mirror, reflecting images from two video screens. On the sound system, Golden's voice can be heard singing a version of Brian Wilson's melancholy '’Til I Die.'" [2]

[LEFT] "Rape of the Mirror" Beachside installation (detail), 2011; Mixed media and Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery [RIGHT] "Rape of the Mirror": Stereos (detail), 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Rape of the Mirror": Bedroom installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

"Video feeds, positioned throughout the installation, play a key role. The large projection in the lounge gives the illusion of crashing waves outside of a window, while two projections in the bedroom spool through every image and video taken on Golden's iPhone in the last year. Others are live interactive feeds, providing opportunities for you to see yourself or others embedded within the artwork; Golden uses a nifty green screen effect so that captured bodies become canvases for projections. Overall, the video feeds function like wormholes enabling transportation and dialogue throughout the installation.

It's clear that this work is highly personal, but it's also highly absorbing. Golden has helpfully provided a comfortable sofa between these two rooms, so that viewers can have a leisurely place to sit and contemplate the work. This helps with soaking in the work's subtle details, and it also makes you feel like you're in it, like you're part of the movie set that the artist has created. Golden has been making interactive video/sculpture installations for some time, but this one feels more open and expansive than her previous efforts. Rape of the Mirror quietly invites you into its world, then takes you into others if you're willing." [2]

[LEFT] "Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Max Schwartz [RIGHT] "Rape of the Mirror": Beachside installation, 2011; Mixed media and Live Video; Installation view at Night Gallery, Los Angeles, 2011; Photo: Courtesy of Night Gallery

TEXT [1] BY SAMARA GOLDEN, TAKEN FROM NIGHT GALLERY'S ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE, NOVEMBER 2011; TEXT [2] BY CAROL CHEH, TAKEN FROM LA WEEKLY, 11.22.2011; ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST